Not sleeping tonight very much so it is a perfect time to update this blog. It is also a good time to reflect on my time here and to get some perspective. I want you to imagine that you are about to move to a strange country without knowing anyone at all. What would you do and where would you start? At this stage I was so glad to be a Latter-day Saint because I contacted the Paris Mission office elders (thanks guysJ) who gave me a contact with a sister in the Paris stake who was known to help foreigners like me. After my initial phone call and an email or 2 with my new found friend, Nadja, I came to discover that she was married to a fellow Kiwi from Auckland. The world suddenly shrank.
From the outset of this adventure I have developed a heightened awareness of the importance of personal revelation. If I was going to follow the initial revelation to leave my home country I wanted to be sure that I was going to the right ward and to be with the right people when I got there. As I prayed about where was best I was answered in my prayers very clearly that we were to move into the Cergy ward of the Paris stake although I had the impression that it would be temporary. We enrolled my son into the bi-lingual science degree programme (English-French) in the University of Cergy-Pontoise which was the closest. It was well over a year after our arrival that we discovered that this was the ONLY university in the whole of the Ile de France region that offered a bi-lingual science programme. The Lord really does know what He is doing!J
I tried to be very logical about all of this in a very illogical situation and I researched all of the necessary topics beforehand-accommodation, schooling, cultural aspects, establishing a business, tax laws etc. LOL I even prepared a budget in advance of living expenses. All the internet information in the world however cannot prepare you for the culture shock of moving to a new world.
As Nadja’s husband, Hugh drove us to their home on our arrival I had the immediate instinct to run back to the airport as fast as I could and catch the first flight home. Everything was just so different-the houses, the landscape and even though I had tried to practice my French before coming I couldn’t understand a word the French were saying. What was I thinking?! As I knelt in prayer that night I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to help me to not give up so easily as long as I knew this was what He wanted. I remember crying myself to sleep that first night.
As I mentioned earlier and now hoping not to sound like a broken record, there have been many times since when I have asked for reconfirmation to make sure that He has not changed his mind. I used to worry that I was nagging the Lord with my constant, “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” questions but I have come to love it that the Lord acknowledges my uncertainty and has consistently been there to reassure me along the way.
I also want to add that the Lord is perfectly capable of taking care of us in every way, even if it is not exactly what we we envisaged. I had hoped that we would find our own accommodation really quickly so that we could get settled but I discovered that the French landlords are extremely cautious about who they rent to, that they demand a 3 yr contract and evidence of receiving a salary. My story of starting a business in France and having enough rent for a year ahead just wasn’t enough. It wasn't helped either by the fact that no bank would let me open a bank account without having my formal carte de séjour in my hand and so I could only access my money from NZ via the hole in the wall in very limited amounts each week. (I was able to open a bank account ahead of time but it still took me 4 months!)
It meant that we needed to stay with Nadja, Hugh and their 7 incredible children that much longer than intended but this was a huge blessing. In the church we have our family by birth and then we have our other “families”. This family in France are now our family by adoption and we have grown to love them very much.
We were also grateful as usual for the missionaries who served here. They would visit to see if we were doing OK, they would translate for us in church when we couldn't understand a word of what was being said and they included me in their missionary work. Between our new found friends it was beginning to feel more like home.